Both strikers have proved they can be leading lights away from Real Madrid
Morata v Hernandez: Second fiddles at Real Madrid but main men at Chelsea and West Ham
There are different ways of exerting influence. Karim Benzema has never played in the Premier League but, indirectly, he should help shape it this season. Perhaps a man scouted by Manchester United in his Lyon days and wanted by Arsenal in recent summers already has. Their different decisions are knock-on effects from his move to Real Madrid and his longevity there.
But the French forward’s primacy at Real should have a greater impact on English shores now. Two of his old deputies are decamping to London. Alvaro Morata will be in the west of the capital, Javier Hernandez in the east. The Spaniard is Chelsea’s record signing, the Mexican West Ham United’s flagship buy this summer. They have traded status as the second fiddle at European football’s most successful club for a chance to be the main man elsewhere.
They have been brilliant bit-part players, specialist substitutes who have proved capable of altering major matches from the bench. Perhaps they have created their own problems, ones they could only resolve by joining a smaller club, with apologies to the current English champions. Hernandez has only started 20 league games in a season in Europe for Bayer Leverkusen, never for Real or Manchester United. Morata has never begun more than 16. Hernandez was on the pitch for 859 minutes – or just under a quarter of the campaign – in the Primera Liga in 2014/15. Morata was fielded for 1,334 last term but it is still less than half. Providing he does not get injured, that will change at Chelsea.
Each promises goals. Morata scored 15 from just 55 shots in La Liga last season, Hernandez 17 from 64 in the Bundesliga the previous term. Those are remarkable ratios. What separates them is Morata’s greater all-round game. His height allows him to function as more of a target man. His pass completion rate – 78.8 per cent in the Spanish top flight – is excellent for a forward. He averages more passes and key passes per minute on the pitch than Hernandez. Grant each the same time and Morata ought to create more goals. Chelsea required a replacement for the totemic target man Diego Costa. West Ham, whose many strikers have been too impotent, simply needed someone to put the ball in the back of the net. They have tried every brand and many nationalities of forward. They want a guarantee of goals.
Hernandez can be damned with faint praise by being branded a one-dimensional poacher by those who believe out-and-out goalscorers are overrated. Morata’s fan club encompasses pragmatists and purists alike.
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It is telling that while Hernandez is a former United player, Morata was on the striking shortlist at Old Trafford this season. The older forward joins a club who finished in the bottom half, the younger one the side that topped the table. Hernandez is costing £16 million (Dh76.5m), Morata an initial £58 million (Dh227m). He could call a move to play for Antonio Conte, the manager who signed him for Juventus, “destiny” and brand it a “dream” to take Chelsea’s No 9 shirt. Hernandez talked more instead about the pull of the Premier League.
But his high-speed expediency paid off both at Leverkusen and Alex Ferguson’s United. Morata, while outscoring Benzema last season, arguably delivered more for Juventus than Real. He scored in the only Uefa Champions League final he started, for the Italian club, as well as in both legs of the semi-final against Real. Hernandez was United’s player of the year in 2010/11, the sole season when he was anything resembling an automatic choice.
Each has shown he can pierce quality defences. Real’s understudies can seem unstoppable when given the chance. That, at least, will be the capital clubs’ hope.